Does Life Really Matter?

Does life really matter? I continue to ask myself this question looking back on my past decisions and looking forward to my future. Throughout the college application process, I’ve questioned some of my decisions. I do not regret any of my decisions but I do think I could have calmed down a little bit. I could have spent some more time with my family or friends instead of being on my phone for hours. I could have taken a deep breath and realized that one test isn’t going to ruin my future. As individuals, we tend to make our lives more complicated than it needs to be. But yes, in a way everything in life matters.

Relationships are one of the most important values in anyone’s life. Humans are supposed to be social, as we all experienced through quarantine, being isolated from those we love such as friends and extended family can be lonely and difficult. Although constructs like money, power, and religion are all in some way made up by humans, a bond between yourself and others is unlike anything else. Social interaction is what makes life matter to me, does it for you?

The Emperor Was Not Divine

For this years summer reading book I chose, When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. The story is beautifully written and I think Nabokov would agree. Although, the story is told in three different perspectives and we never know the narrators names, Otsuka manages provide the utmost detail. The boy recalls, “It was 1942. Utah. Late summer. A city of tar-paper barracks behind a barbed-wire fence on a dusty alkaline plain high up in the desert. The wind was hot and dry and the rain rarely fell and wherever the boy looked he saw him: Daddy, Papa, Father, Oto-san” (49). Otsuka manages to captivate the reader by describing the horrible setting of a Japanese internment camp during a hot summer. Julie Otsuka also manages to capture the fear that many Japanese Americans were facing during World War II. The mother narrates, “Tomorrow she and the children would be leaving. She did not know where they were going or how long they would be gone or who would be living in their house while they were away. She knew only that tomorrow they had to go” (8-9). Once again, Otsuka gets the reader to feel empathy for the family and the hardships they will experience. Nabokov would, I believe, approve of Otsuka’s enchanting storytelling. As Nabokov states, “A major writer combines these three- storyteller, teacher, enchanter- but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer” (32).

Escaping Life with Birds

In the magnificent short story written by George Saunders the main character, Jeff, ultimately decides to kill himself. “My MobiPak™ whirred. The Darkenfloxx™ flowed. Then came the horror: worse than I’d ever imagined” (page 78). Later on in the story as Jeff is dying of intoxication, he is describing an actual escape. I believe George Saunders did this to appeal to the reader and not share the gory details of the pain Jeff is feeling. The reason why I find this so interesting is because Saunders has been extremely descriptive leading up to the main characters death. Saunders also included the description of birds as a way for the reader to believe Jeff had redeemed himself in the end by choosing to sacrifice himself instead of allowing Rachel to die. “From across the woods, as if by common accord, birds left their trees and darted upward. I joined them, flew among them, they did not recognize me as something apart from them, and I was happy so happy, because for the first time in years, and forevermore, I had not killed and never would” (page 81).